MITCHELSTOWN Lawn Tennis Club has experienced a boom in the past year and a new sponsorship deal with Kerrygold Park will help ensure that future prospects remain positive.
The butter production and packing facility opened in Mitchelstown in 2016 and provides vital employment in the area.
The link-up with the tennis club is further proof of the business’s community involvement.
The club will celebrate its 130th birthday next year and currently has more than 150 members of all ages.
A new clubhouse was recently completed and, while sport hasn’t necessarily benefited from Covid-19 and the various lockdowns, tennis has fared better than most.
Club chairperson John Paul Cotter was one of the many drawn back to tennis last year as it was one of the few that could be played safely. He believes that the new partnership will allow the club to continue to grow and develop.
“It’s unbelievable to have a sponsor like Kerrygold Park on-site,” he says.
“I’m new to the role, I only took over as chairperson at the start of the year, having returned to the club during the lockdown last year.
“Tennis was always a big part of my life, but when I turned 18, hurling and football and socialising took over! I went back last year and then the role of chairman fell at the right time for myself.
“Kerrygold Park are a new organisation in Mitchelstown and what they do is phenomenal so to have them on board is really positive for the future of the club.
“We have a new clubhouse, with shower facilities available, and last year, we had been due to host our first Munster Open, for adults and juniors, but obviously that didn’t go ahead due to Covid. We’d be hopeful that it will take place now this year.
“It would be fantastic for us to be able to hold something like that, especially for the juniors in the club to come up and see such high-quality players in action.”
The underage arm of the club is burgeoning, aided by dedicated coaching sessions at the weekends.
“The big thing for us as a club is the junior scene,” Cotter says.
“At the weekends, we have Friday night, Saturday morning and Sunday morning dedicated to ‘the Smashers’, which is the junior section.
“The numbers are very good there and have been for the previous few years, which is excellent. We have members from around age five up and then, especially from around seven to 11 and 12, the membership is very strong.”
“When the club had to limit its services solely to structured junior training and coaching, the club added additional volunteer capacity to deliver a Friday/Saturday/Sunday programme to meet the increased demand under reduced participant levels as mandated by Tennis Ireland and public health guidance. It was hard work, but the smile the faces of the children made it all worthwhile.
“During a time when children are kept apart from their friends, it’s important to recognise the value of sports and physical activity for good mental health.”
Hopefully, the return of on-court action won’t be too far away, especially given the in-built social distancing involved with tennis.
“Absolutely,” Cotter says, “and hopefully there will be a movement similar to last year, where golf and tennis came back.
“Whether it’s just singles or doubles and your playing partner is from the same household, it would make sense. We are ready, when safe to do so, to welcome back all of our members, their families, and friends.
“The future is very bright for Mitchelstown Lawn Tennis Club and it’s fantastic to see. Over the last 20 years, a lot of hard work has gone in from an awful lot of people and it’s great to see where it has come to.
“Now, there’s still hard work ahead but it’s in a very good place.”
Seán McHugh, general manager of Kerrygold Park, is delighted to have established such a link with the club.
“Community and belonging is at the heart of how Kerrygold Park operate,” he said.
“Giving back to the community is a core value of Kerrygold Park. We are looking forward to building a strong relationship with such an important local amenity.”